When the €32m Saltees Quest fishing vessel berthed at 8pm on Wednesday, skipper Jimmy Byrne was met by officers of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, which detained the vessel as it exceeded its EU monkfish quota.
Owner Seamus O’Flaherty decided to give away the fish rather than discard it into the sea.
“I took the action to highlight a campaign to oppose the EU rule that requires over-quota fish to be thrown back into the sea,” Mr O’Flaherty said.
The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, which is preparing files for the DPP, said it found a substantial quantity of fish on the vessel which the skipper logged as having been discarded.
“EU regulations allocate a national quota for certain fish species, and all fishing vessels are obligated to work within the allocated quota for their boat size,” it said.
“If a fishing vessel catches more than their quota of a species, the normal outcome is discarding of the surplus at sea. It is a requirement under EU law that this discarding is logged.
“All catches landed, including these fish which had been undeclared as ‘discards,’ are counted against the national quota. Therefore bringing these fish ashore is the utilisation of a national resource and will detract from the quota available for allocation,” it said.
Skipper Mr Byrne said: “This is no accident, the bringing in of this fish, for I’m making a statement. There is no hiding of fish for I placed the extra boxes of fish on the pier for the people to take home.”
“They (the SFPA) have no protocol for honesty. Everything I did was honest. I kept some 3,000 kilos of monkfish, which was over the quota, put it up on the wall of the pier for the people. I did not benefit from it, the boat owner or crew did not benefit from it. I was making a statement that I will not dump the fish at sea.
“The Irish Government wants me to brush all this up, dump the fish at sea, and say nothing. In Irish waters, the French have 47% of the monkfish quota, the Spanish have 22%, while us Paddys have only 7% in our own waters.
“When I landed the 5,000 kilos of monkfish yesterday, that was the monthly quota fished in five days. So I cannot fish monkfish for another three weeks. What we now have is a graveyard of fish in Irish fishing grounds.
“Ireland has the richest fishing waters in all of Europe...The Government are trying to hide from the EU for we (fishermen) do not have the same muscle as the Irish farmers.
“We are fighting for a fair share of the quota for each year the French cannot even catch their quota.
“Ireland is the only country in Europe that one is criminalised for a fishing offence,” he said.